By Deborah Wilker
At almost 15 years old, beautiful Bailee Madison has dozens of top-drawer movie and TV credits, nearly 300,000 Twitter followers and leading designers clamoring to dress her.
But the well-spoken teen, who grew up in the bucolic ocean-side village of Lauderdale-By-the Sea, isn’t overly impressed with any of it. She dreams of going to college, possibly becoming “a businesswoman” and if she is going to emulate anyone it will be fellow thespian brainiacs Jodie Foster (Yale) and Natalie Portman (Harvard).
Madison who stars next month in the original Hallmark Channel holiday movie Northpole, as the spirited elf Clementine, definitely wants to go to college while continuing her acting and dipping her toe into writing, producing and directing.
“I love all the behind-the-scenes work,” she says. “I think when you dive into that, it sparks your interest even more.”
For now though all the interest seems to be falling on her, and catching up with her while she was briefly at home this fall was not a simple feat. Her schedule is not only packed with the usual industry appearances, but with a workload that is truly demanding.
She is a co-star of the ABC Family series The Fosters; The Hallmark Channel is turning Northpole into an annual event; the channel also has her signed to its new series The Good Witch filming in Toronto with Katherine Bell; she recently completed a break-out year co-starring in ABC’s short-lived but well-regarded series Trophy Wife and she is about to guest star on the new Fox series Mulaney.
This is all in addition to recent roles as young Snow White on ABC’s Once Upon A Time; as the granddaughter of Billy Crystal and Bette Midler in the 2012 Christmas comedy Parental Guidance; as Maxine on Wizards of Waverly Place, and starring opposite Adam Sandler in Just Go With It. Madison has also worked with Nicole Kidman, Hilary Swank and Portman herself – and has had guest stints on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, CSI: NY, and House.
How does she do it all?
“I’m really thankful that my mom is so in the picture,” Madison says. “She ‘gets’ the business – she’s there for all of it. It’s a whole-family process. And I am also grateful that she is just my mom. She hasn’t tried to be my manager or my publicist. She is just always there.”
Mom is South Florida actress Patricia Riley, star of many national TV commercials years ago – everything ranging from Pampers to Burger King and Home Depot.
Madison got her first big break at just two weeks of age, co-starring with her mother in an Office Depot spot. When she was three years old, the two worked together in a SeaWorld ad.
“I honestly don’t even know how I got into acting. It happened so quickly because my mom and sister used to do commercials,” Madison told Entertainment Tonight last year, “and apparently when I was little I would unbuckle myself from the stroller and crash their auditions.”
Even though her childhood friends in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea are all starting high school here, and visits to her family home are no longer as lengthy as she’d like, Madison says she does not feel she’s missing out by traveling so much and not attending conventional school. While she loves the Fort Lauderdale area and will always consider it home, she says she genuinely enjoys her worldwide shooting schedule, and life in Los Angeles too.
“I think I’m getting the most incredible education with the cultures and people around the world I have been able to experience, which is really rare for someone my age,” she says. “I joke that I live vicariously through my best friends. I get to ask them how high school is – and, to be quite honest it sounds like a very, very dramatic situation!”
“I’m kinda happy that I am not in high school at the moment.”
For years though when Madison returned home she made a point of attending her local elementary school – Christ Church School, just over the bridge off Commercial Boulevard.
“Even if I was only home for two days I would put on my uniform and make my lunch and put it in my lunchbox and be welcomed and see all my friends. Fort Lauderdale has always been where my roots are and it’s always a place I come to see my family and stay grounded.”
ONLINE BONUS: Bailee Madison’s advice for young actors, YXWyt5
Northpole will air Nov. 15 on The Hallmark Channel. Starring Bailee Madison. Co-starring Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Tiffani Thiessen, Josh Hopkins and Max Charles.